Children always ask Ed White if he plans to write a sequel to his book, “Foxy’s Tale: The True Story of a Champion Alaskan Sled Dog.”
So when three fifth-graders at the Rieck Avenue School in Millville last year took on the challenge themselves, White was honored and pleased.
When he read their stories, he was so impressed he decided to publish the three stories as “Foxy’s Tale Two.”
On Wednesday, he and his wife, Sandy, drove from their home in State College, Pa., to present copies of the paperback books to the three authors.
Now sixth-graders at the Lakeside Middle School, Jordan Sprowl, Brianna Miller and Joei Sutton knew they were going to meet the author. But the 11-year-olds had not been told about the books.
They were, to say the least, surprised.
“I’m speechless,” Sprowl said.
“We thought we were just going to meet him,” said Sutton, as they all signed a copy for White.
The process toward the book began several years ago when school district technology trainer Carmelita Graham asked if anyone was interested in Skyping with White.
Rieck Avenue School librarian Judy Bonato said she had copies of his book in the library and thought students would be interested in meeting the author. She connected with fifth-grade teacher Linda Wittmann, and so began not just an author talk, but a series of lessons on Alaska, dog sled racing and the annual Iditarod race.
Wittmann said the book is a good reading level for the beginning of the school year, and she uses it to work on writing narratives and asking open-ended questions. The class talks about what might happen next, and last year three students decided to write their own sequels.
“They are all phenomenal writers, and they worked really hard on them,” Wittmann said.
The students all said they like to write. All picked similar themes of making it to the championship race. But it wasn’t always a smooth ride, and Kelly and her sled dog Foxy have to overcome challenges along the way.
Sprowl said in first grade she had a little notebook she used to write stories and draw pictures, so she’s been writing for a while.
Miller said Whitman taught them how to write a narrative, so she got a lot of practice before starting her story.
“It’s really cool to be published,” she said.
The three girls worked with Wittmann, finished their stories just before school ended in June and e-mailed them to White.
Bonato said he first told them he wanted to post them on his website, which was thrilling enough.
“Then the next thing we knew he wrote he was going to publish the sequels,” Bonato said. “I had to read that sentence three times.”
Bonato said she is thrilled that White was willing to do so much to inspire budding writers. White said he was convinced after his 93-year-old mother read the stories and asked if the students lived in Alaska because they were so accurate.
A photo of the three students is on the back cover of the book. The cover photo features White’s daughter, Kelly, on whom Foxy’s Tale is based. Kelly is now an adult expecting a child of her own.
“One day Kelly’s child might be reading your stories,” Sandy White, Kelly’s mom, told the three authors.
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